Unveiling the government’s “plan B” measures, Boris Johnson has announced that masks and Covid passports are to be made mandatory in live music venues, nightclubs, theatres and cinemas across England. From Friday, December 10th, it will be illegal to not wear a mask in indoor spaces, while Covid-passports will also be enforced for concerts and nightclubs from Wednesday, December 15th. Proof of a negative lateral flow test will also be deemed sufficient for entry.
The new measures come as the Omicron variant continues to spread, and are just the first the Prime Minister has unveiled in a renewed attempt to tackle the spread of Covid-19 this winter. Speaking from Downing Street, Johnson said: “It’s now the proportionate and responsible thing to move to Plan B in England, while continuing to work closely with our colleagues in the devolved administrations so we can slow the spread of the virus”.
Johnson continued to emphasise the importance of wearing face masks in public spaces. “From this Friday we will extend the legal requirement to wear face masks in most indoor public venues including theatres and cinemas. We’ll also make the NHS Covid pass mandatory for entry into nightclubs and venues where large crowds gather including unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any venue with more than 10,000 people”.
Of course, the new restrictions will put more stress on the UK’s already struggling live music industry, with many, including Greg Parmley, CEO of Live music organisation LIVE, criticising the decision to limit large crowds. “The introduction of Plan B results in an unfair double standard that allows people to go on all-day pub crawls in crowded bars without having to prove their Covid-19 status, whilst live music venues get hit with certification,” Parmley said.
Meanwhile, Michael Kill of the Night Time Industries Association, claimed that Boris Johnson has thrown the nightlife industry “under a bus”, adding: “Today’s announcement of Plan B by the government is devastating news for nightlife sector. Vaccine passports have a damaging impact on Night Time Economy businesses, as we’ve seen in other parts of the UK where they have been implemented like Scotland – where trade is down 30 per cent – and Wales, where it is down 26 per cent”.
But Britain isn’t alone in introducing new measures to curb the spread of the Omicron variant. In Europe, the picture is much the same, with the German government ruling that nightclubs in areas where there are more than 350 cases per 100,000 people must close their doors. There are also limitations on the number of people that can attend events. Outdoor events are capped at 50 per cent capacity, while indoor events will be restricted to 5,000 people.
Indeed, some have welcomed the UK government’s decision, with the Music Venue Trust’s Mark Davyd saying: “Whilst this is obviously a blow in the battle against the virus, we are pleased that the government has listened to the grassroots music venue sector and adopted a Covid pass policy that recognises testing and applies to larger gatherings – those venues operating above 500 capacity.”
See the statement, below.